Silicone Explosion: Why Women are Getting More Breast Augmentation
We’re taught to love and accept our bodies but for many women, the feeling doesn’t apply to their boobs. The stats back this up, as women are scheduling breast augmentation plastic surgery in droves. But why? Is it because of pop culture or something else?
Is there a rise in the number of boob jobs?
The average breast size varies by country. In the United States, a 36DD became the norm, increasing from a 34B suggested one paper based on various articles using numbers gleaned from lingerie manufacturers in 2009 and 2012. Whether this change is due to inconsistent bra sizing or other factors is unclear. Other data, however, indicates a C-cup may be the average size for U.S. women.
From 2000 to 2018, breast augmentation spiked by 48 percent, growing from 212,500 surgeries per year to 313,735 per year. What is causing people with breasts to increase their size?
Do breast implants help women feel happier?
One 2007 study suggested implants help women feel better about their bodies, however the impact on mental health, self-esteem and quality of life is less clear. Although she is not against enhancement, licensed clinical sex therapist Brittani Davis, M.A. said self-esteem resulting from plastic surgery is generally hard to measure.
"What other influences cause the need or desire? It can vary significantly,” she said. “Are you doing this solely for your own want and desire, or was this influenced by social media or other people telling you you should because then you would be beautiful or then you would be accepted?"
Though sex-positive feminist Cindy Gallop, the founder of Make Love Not Porn, who's based in New York City, is not a fan of the robotic, artificial sexuality presented by mainstream porn, she doesn’t think the industry is solely responsible for women feeling bad about their bodies.
"Many things are laid at porn’s door that should be laid at society's," Gallop said. "I think it’s very hard to draw a direct correlation with porn when every other industry in popular culture is sending women and men the same messages."
Gallop suggested we turn elsewhere and ask what other factors are at play here?
"I honestly think girls and women have so many messages coming at them from every single area of popular culture including my own industry, advertising."
Images or videos could have a hand in women’s beliefs about their bodies.
Have women always wanted larger breasts?
Breast augmentation was the fifth most popular procedure in 2020, trailing only nose jobs, face lifts, eyelid lifts and liposuction. The procedure dropped in 2019 rankings due to COVID-19 but rebounded, according to the Aesthetic Society.
Media consultant and journalist Sally Turner, who explores issues in women’s sexuality and popular culture, said the quest for large breasts is nothing new.
"Culturally, larger breasts have long been synonymous with fertility, femininity and sexual allure and there are tales of women using everything from boned corsets to ivory and glass balls to paraffin injections to enhance their cleavage—largely for the male gaze."
Ranking women’s value by attractiveness is no more pervasive than it’s ever been, Gallop said.
Women may care about breast size more than their partners
As with men and penis size, there is evidence women are more hung up on breast tissue size than their partners, Turner said. One survey suggested 60 percent of women and 54 percent of men in the United States preferred an average bra size. The average cup size of people taking the survey was a C. However, nearly twice as many male survey respondents picked an A cup than women.
Olga Bachilo, M.D., FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa in Houston, said most women don’t want new boobs. They just want their old ones back.
"The primary augmentation is in the late twenties, and then I see a lot of women post-pregnancy," she said.
Bachilo’s clientele represents a national trend, supported by 2020 statistics compiled by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. She has seen a slow growth in the popularity of plastic surgery in the years she has been practicing and acknowledges that social media may have some effect.
But Bachilo does not see cause for alarm. The techniques have evolved in the past 20 years, so it’s natural women would be less reluctant.
"There is a steady increase in surgical procedures over the last few years," Bachilo said. "Non-surgical techniques that involve the breasts are actually growing faster. It’s just acceptance of the procedure, I’d say. Patients are more open to body modifications. It’s more easily available, safer."
What should women consider before a breast augmentation?
Bachilo said psychological screening is a prerequisite only for gender-reassignment surgery but did stress the importance of excellent communication with her clients. Davis also recommended this approach.
"For example, a person might say, 'I'm going to give myself a year in the gym to see what kind of body I’m able to create,'" Davis said. "Then I’ll reevaluate if there’s still something I want to change and still want assistance from a surgeon if I’m looking at this to resolve not fitting into a social norm."
The bottom line
While some women seek breast reduction surgery, many choose breast augmentation to increase the size of their breasts. Unlike people undergoing gender-affirming surgery, psychological screenings aren’t a requirement. If you’re considering breast augmentation surgery, speak with your doctor to learn more.
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